Starring Dev Patel Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs
Directed by: Anthony Maras
Genre: True incident
Runs: 125 Minutes
Rated: MA 15 plus
With a very high-profile cast, “Hotel Mumbai” takes an equally tense and touching approach to India’s devastating 2008 terrorist attacks — a highly coordinated four-day onslaught that left 164 people dead and hundreds more injured. Primarily focusing on events at and surrounding the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, writer/director Anthony Maras largely stays with the original story but does so in an effective and empathetic fashion. Talented Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, and Jason Isaacs help boost this Australian-produced movie. Based on the Emmy-nominated, also Australian-made 2009 TV doco “Surviving Mumbai”, Hotel Mumbai arrives ten years after the chaos that it chronicles. That’s not completely by design; the feature was filmed in Adelaide in 2016, then held up in post-production and subsequently entangled in the collapse of The Harvey Weinstein Company. Thankfully, it doesn’t suffer from any delay in release.
Dev Patel, in his second Australian role after earning an Oscar nomination for “Lion”, plays the Sikh concierge Arjun. Long before bombs start exploding around Mumbai, it’s already an eventful day for the husband and father who unwittingly reports to the kitchen sans shoes. Initially told to go home, he begs the head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) to let him stay; his wife is expecting, and he needs all the work that he can get.
At a nearby cafe, Aussie backpackers Eddie (Angus McLaren) and Bree (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) witness early gunfire as attacks escalate across Mumbai. Also sighted are the young Jihadists, both as they prepare for and unleash their deadly campaign, including shooting their way through the hotel.
Within the up market main location, management maintains that the “guest is god”, though the selfless actions of the establishment’s staff ultimately challenge this idea. What eventuates is an account not merely of endurance, resilience, and survival, but of selfless courage. “Hotel Mumbai” works best as a film of quiet compassion rather than lots of action-packed scenes and this is underscored by its performances. While the well-known names all stand out, Dev Patel is the most memorable with good support from Kherand Boniadi each vulnerable yet subtly steely in their own ways.
Director Anthony Maras, a two-time Australian award-winner for his fictional shorts, knows how to get plenty of tension out of the film’s tersest and most vivid moments. Like the Taj Mahal Palace Hotels gleaming surfaces corrupted by bullets, blood and bodies, the streets of Mumbai, mostly seen at night, are dark, busy but no less fraught. Both displaying how near danger lurks, sometimes closer than you think. Hotel Mumbai is well worth a visit.
Score: 8 out of 10